The new school year marks the first year of Virginia Ambler’s ’88, Ph.D. ’06 tenure as permanent vice president of student affairs. After a year as interim VPSA, Ambler permanently assumed her current office in July.
The position opened up when Sam Sadler ’64 M.Ed. ’71 retired in 2008 after serving 41 years at the College of William and Mary. Last spring, Ambler was selected as the new VPSA over three other highly qualified final candidates.
The VPSA manages a variety of departments and offices responsible for student services including counseling, student organizations and activities, student residences and student health needs.
“Going through the search process was a wonderful experience because it gave me an opportunity to hear from constituents all across campus about what they envisioned for student affairs,” she said.
Her experience working closely with Sadler in the office since 1991 helped her win the job, along with her love for the school as a graduate of the College.
“Like most of William and Mary, Ginger bleeds green,” Jodi Fisler M.Ed. ’10, assistant to the vice president, said. “She brings an incredible intellect as a scholar and as well as being an administrator. She cares deeply about the students and about William and Mary.”
Ambler’s tenure as interim VPSA helped prepare her to permanently take on the position.
“[As interim,] she certainly got people thinking about what might be coming next, and kept us moving forward as opposed to just treading water. So I think that made it easier when she got the position — she had already thought about what she wanted,” Fisler said.
Currently, she is working on filling positions within her staff. She spent the summer working with student leaders and staff, discussing plans for the year, from the construction of the Cohen Career Center to as long-held traditions such as the Yule Log Ceremony and Commencement.
“I’m particularly excited for the opening of the new Center for Student Diversity,
formerly known as the Office of Multicultural Affairs, here in the Campus Center,” Ambler said. “It has provided me with the opportunity … to expand the scope of what kind of services will be provided in that office.
According to Ambler, the new Center for Student Diversity will work to support the campus community in all areas of diversity, including sexual orientation and religion.
Ambler also hopes to continue implementing the strategic planning effort launched by College President Taylor Reveley last year by building a stronger Tribe spirit.
“Part of what we’re trying to do … is to really work on forging a lifelong relationship between students, alumni and their alma mater,” she said. “We’re looking for ways to celebrate what it means to be a member of the Tribe.”
The issue of fraternity housing is another item on her agenda. Her office is working with the Council for Fraternity Affairs to solve the problem.
Ambler has also been communicating closely with the Student Assembly about improving town-gown relations.
She said the off-campus student organization that has been formed to work in conjunction with the SA to address the tension between the city and students will help the discussion.
“The president has said many times that finding a solution to the town-gown stressors really is going to involve all parties,” Ambler said. “I’m really glad that the students are finding an important way to be involved in that process. I’m working with my administrative colleagues, and hopefully we can make some progress.”
Both Ambler and SA President Sarah Rojas ’10 have committed to regular meetings throughout the school year in order to foster and maintain open communication between the student body and administration.
“I think that many of the areas that fall under her office are undergoing huge changes,” Rojas said in an e-mail. “Other areas like the student conduct system are areas that the Student Assembly hopes to work with Vice President Ambler on in the near future.”
In the long run, Ambler hopes to serve the College’s best interests by both promoting dialogue between students, staff and administrators and also meeting people individually and in groups.
“When I leave this position, I hope that I leave behind a network of relationships that will continue to strengthen the William and Mary community,” she said. “I really believe that community makes William and Mary strong, and community comes by the building of relationships … I never underestimate the power of Tribe pride.”